I have recently been deeply moved, and rather startled, to realize that the street on which I grew up, Chevy Chase Parkway in Northwest Washington DC, was located on the grounds of a former a slavery-based plantation, evidently in operation from the 1720s, until perhaps as late as April 1862. I have been eager to identify the enslaved people who worked this land under conditions not of their own choosing, and to trace their descendants.
Colonel Joseph John Belt (c. 1680-1761) obtained the original patent to the 500 acre Chevy Chase tract (later expanded to 1000 acres) from Charles Calvert, 5th Lord Baltimore on July 10, 1725. The Chevy Chase property was located across what is now portions of Montgomery County, Maryland, and northwest Washington DC. He reportedly built the two and half story Chevy Chase Manor House around 1725 at what is now 3734 Oliver Street, Northwest, Washington DC, a half block from where I grew up, at 5807 Chevy Chase Parkway. The manor house was a few hundreds yards southeast of Chevy Chase Circle, within what is now the District of Columbia side of border. The house was evidently occupied by Belt descendants until 1907, when it was razed.
Colonel Joseph Belt’s 1761 will provides substantial information on the distribution of his slaves. He names 28 slaves, and indicates that there were other slaves, not named. It is not clear from the will which slaves were associated with the Chevy Chase tract, and which were linked to his other properties, such as the properties in Prince George’s Co. called “Good Luck” or “The Addition to Good Luck”, and in Frederick County, Friendship and Seneca Hills, although there may be hints that can be inferred about which enslaved people were associated with which farm.
In his will, Joseph Belt leaves these named slaves: “To his wife, males Sango, Batchelor, Wall, Bob, and Nero; and females Sarah with her children Jenny and Flora, another Jenny, Bess, Nan with her son Charles, plus a boy named Juba. He leaves his son Humphrey adult slaves named Rochester and Tom and boy slaves named Batchleor and Sango. To his grandson Joseph Sprigg, for the use of Sprigg’s mother Rachel, he leaves slaves James (adult man), Toby (boy), Babb (adult woman), and Babb (girl), said slaves to go to grandsons Osborn and Thomas sprig after Rachel’s death. To his son Tobias Belt, Joseph leaves slaves named Hercules and Toby, both adults. To his grandson Richard Belt son of Jeremiah, he leaves a slave girl named Jenny. To his grandson Thomas Belt son of Joseph, he leaves a girl named Pegg and a man named Shrewsbury. To William Belt (grandson?) he leaves a girl named Jenny and a boy named Sam. The will states that his remaining slaves are to be divided among several of his children.”
Other slaves, not named, from the Chevy Chase Plantation were to be divided among four children of the the Colonel’s late son Joseph Belt, Jr. that is to say the Colonel’s four grandchildren, as follows:
1.Charles Belt, b. 1791
- Elizabeth Belt, b. 1756
- Ann Belt, b. 1767
- Joseph Sprigg Belt, c. 1752-1819.
In addition, some of the Chevy Chase land was bequeathed to: Thomas Belt, also a son of Joseph Belt, Jr. Thomas, who, as noted above, received the slaves Pegg and Shrewsbury from this grandfather. (Thomas Belt moved at some point to North Carolina and died there, bequeathing several slaves to his heirs and requesting that his enslaved woman ‘June’ not be sold out of the family.)
Some of the Chevy Chase land was also, it appears, inherited by William Belt.
Belt Family Background
Col Joseph John Belt was the son of John Sprigg Belt (1645-1698) who was the son of Humphrey Belt (b. Yorkshire, England, c.1615-aft. 1663 ), who arrived in Jamestown Virginia, 3 July 1635, on board the ship America. By 1663, Humphrey Belt was settled in Anne Arundel County, Maryland.
It should be noted that there were many other enslaved people owned by members of the extended Belt family. For example, the will of Col Joseph John Belt’s half brother, Jeremiah Belt (1698-1768), signed 1750 and probated 1768, bequeaths to Fielder Gant the Negro Sarah and Negro Roger.
Tobias Belt and Humprey Belt: Slaves and Freepersons
Tobias “Thomas” Belt, to whom his father Colonel Joseph Belt in 1761 had bequeathed the enslaved men Hercules and Toby, died in 1785. His probate inventory for the Chelsea Plantation, Prince George’s County, lists 12 slaves, including Toby (age 53), mentioned in Col Belt’s will, although not Hercules. Also listed are Tom, age 26, Merandor (23), Dobney (14), Hannah (45) ,Nilly (20) , Sophia (15), Lurana (7), Leath (4), Esther (18), Tinney (7), Teni (?), 9,
A decade later, in Upper Malboro, Prince George’s County, in her 1795 will, Mary (nee Gordon) Belt, widow of Tobias “Thomas” Belt, emancipated Judson Norris, Jane Gilmore, Harriot Smith, and Luke Gilbert (through gradual emancipation.) Also coming off of this plantation was Alethia “Lethia” Browning Tanner, (b. 1781), listed as Leath, age 4, in the 1785 inventory, inherited by Tobias’s daughter Rachel Belt Pratt. Alethia, with the assistance of Joseph Doughtery (Thomas Jefferson’s footman), purchased her freedom in 1810. She became a prominent figure in DC black business and Methodist church circles, and purchased the freedom of her sister Laurena, (listed as Lurena, age 7, in the 1785 inventory).
Tobias’ brother, Humphrey Belt emancipated the enslaved person Trimly Digges on March 12, 1811 in Prince George’s County (Maryland State Archives).
The Prince George’s County court record for 27 June 1732, contains a complaint by William Johnson that he is a free negro who came from London in 1729 and who was sold by Captain William Spaven to Col Joseph Belt and should be released. I am unsure what happened to William Johnson.
Enslaved People in Chevy Chase
The only group of enslaved people I have been able to trace as probably remaining in Chevy Chase area appear to have been associated with Joseph Sprigg Belt, c. 1752-1819, the grandson of Colonel Joseph Belt. As noted above, Joseph Sprigg Belt was bequeathed in 1761 about a quarter of the slaves associated with the Chevy Chase tract. Some or all of their descendants seem to have come into the possession of Joseph Sprigg Belt’s son Charles Richard Belt, after 1819.
Charles Richard Belt, c. 1794-1884
In 1850, the only slaveowner with the surname Belt within the District of Columbia was (Colonel) Charles Richard Belt. After his death the Nevada-based “California syndicate.” led by Francis G. Newlands, acquired his property as his estate was settled. This process led to development of Chevy Chase in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by the Chevy Chase Land Company.
Joseph Sprigg Belt, the son of Joseph Belt Jr (1717-1761) and Anne Sprigg, (1712-1775) and grandson of Colonel Joseph Belt, d. 1761, appears in the 1800 census in Prince George’s County, Maryland, owning one slave. He may be enumerated in the 1810 census as “J Bald” in Frederick, Maryland, owning eleven slaves. (Perhaps he inherited a group of slaves between 1800 and 1810.)
Joseph Spring Belt died in 1819, evidently in Prince George’s County. I have not yet located his will or probate inventory.
Charles Richard Belt, born about 1794, was the son of Joseph Sprigg Belt III, 1752-1819, who as noted above, was bequeathed by his grandfather Col. Joseph Belt in 1761 about one quarter of the slaves held on the Chevy Chase tract. His mother was Sarah Burgess, b. 1769-1794). Upon their father’s death in 1819, Charles and his brother (Lt) William Belt were willed several slaves, including Hannah, perhaps born around 1795, and her daughter Lethea (later Lethi or Lethea Bowie), perhaps born around 1813. Hannah later bore a son Augustus or Julius, who later took the name Henry Gustus or Henry Bowie. Charles, according to his 1862 emancipation petition (quoted below) at some point bought out his brother William’s interest in these slaves.
1n 1820, the year after his father’s death, Charles Richard Belt owned eleven slaves:
2 males, ages between 14 and 25
3 male ages between 26 and 44,
one male. age 45
four female, under 15
1 female, age 14 to 25
In 1840, Charles Richard Belt owned thirteen slaves:
2 males, under age 10
2 males, ages 10 through 23
1 male, age 36 through 54
3 females, under 10
3 females, 10 through 23
1 female, 24 through 35
1 female, 36 through 54
In 1850, Charles Richard Belt owned nine slaves, with ages and gender as follows;
In 1860, Charles Richard Belt owned seven slaves, still listing as his Post Office Tenleytown, District of Columbia
Female, age 46
Female, age 40
Male, age 28
Female, age 16
Male, age 14
male, age 13
female, age 10
The Boschke topographical map for the late 1850s (1861) depicts Col. C.R. Belt’s residence in the same location as the old manor house constructed by his great grandfather Col Joseph Belt, due east of the east jog of the Brookville Road, immediately south of the northwest boundary line of Washington County (unincorporated District of Columbia). This location, the present day 3734 Oliver Street, is about two tenths of a mile southeast of present day Chevy Chase Circle, at the intersection of modern Connecticut and Western Avenues. (The Boschke map is slanted about 45 degrees left of north.)
Enslaved and Free People of Color in the Neighborhood
The 1850 census records that among the Belt slaves’ closest neighbors was the free family color headed by Thomas Harris, including with wife Mary Harris, and their children John, Mary, Joseph, and Lewis, who resided along Broad Branch Road (the future location of the Lafayette-Pointer Park and Lafayette Elementary School), about a mile east of Belt manor house.
The enslaved persons on the Belt plantaiton might also have had some contact with enslaved people in the vicinity. Immediately north of Charles Belt’s property was the land of Joseph H Bradley, who in 1860 owned a 16 year old male slave, and who in 1862 petitioned for compensation for the 13 year old slave Eliza Carter. To the east was the property of Charles Bradley who is in 1850 owned two 16 year old male slaves. To the immediate south was David P Shoemaker, who in 1850 owned an 18 year old male slave. Three miles south was the District of Columbia’s largest slaveowner, Margaret Barber, the widow of Cornelius Barber) of North View (located on the land that is now the Naval US Observatory), who owned 29 persons in the 1860 slave schedule.
In April 1862, Charles Richard Belt petitioned for compensated emancipation for the following seven enslaved individuals in the District of Columbia. “Lethea Bowie, and her children George, Harriet, Andrew, Hamilton, and Eliza Bowie, and also Henry Augustus (or Julius)”
The ages and descriptions of these individuals are given as follows;
Lethi (Lethea?) Bowie, age 49, b. 1813 (“Lethea is about 5 feet 6 inches high healthy, corpulent, very pleasant and polite when spoken to, a dark copper color; was raised in petitioners service and has been for many years his cook”)
Henry (Augustus) Gustus, age 34, b. 1828. (“enry is a dark copper, about five feet seven inches, strong, well made has a doure look, and an impediment in his speech which gives him the appearance of want of intelligence: he is however a smart active and good farm hand”)
George Bowie, age 31, b. 1831 (“George is a very valuable servant would have commanded the highest market price as a farm hand; is strong active, healthy, skilful, sincere, about if not quite six feet high, a dark copper color;”_
Andrew Bowie, age 17 born 1845 (“Andrew, a valuable servant, about five feet ten, farmhand and cobbler, polite has a hesitation in answering,)
Hamilton Bowie, age 15, born 1847 (“Hamilton dark copper speaks but seldom, greene look, some each in his eyes or rather defect that gives them a peculiar color quite ingenious, handles carpenters tools very well, good farm hand”)
Harriet Bowie age 19 good seamstress, born 1843 (“Harriet about five feet six inches high, copper color; good appearance, good sempstress, and able servant, faithful and honest,)
Eliza Bowie, age 13, born 1849 (“Eliza, copper color well grown for her age, stoops a little when backing, good face, good natured, pleasant when spoken to, about five feet high”)
Charles Richard Belt in his 1862 petition for compensation elaborates that “Lethea and Henry are brother and sister, the children of Hannah who belonged to the late Jos. Sprigg Belt, residing in said county and they were born his property. Lethea’s children were all born at the petitioner’s residence after the death of his Father. Mr. Jos Sprigg Belt left his two children, your petitioner and his brother William J. Your petitioner after the death of his said father in 1819 continued to reside at the home place. Hannah the mother of Lethea and Henry lived with him as his slave, and he subsequently purchased the interest of his brother in these servants.”
In addition, a compensated emancipation petition filed by the clerk Morris Adler (1780-1872) of Georgetown indicates that he purchased an Ann Bowie, age 22, for $800 from Charles Richard Belt. A filed bill of sale dated 15 September 1859 indicates that Ann Bowie “is now working in the home of Morris Adler,” to whom she had evidently been rented out as a domestic servant. Ann, born around 1840, presumably was a daughter of Lethea Bowie.
I do not know if Lethea Bowie was related to the Lethe, later the well known Alethia “Lethia” Browning Tanner, (b. 1781), listed in the 1785 probate inventory for Tobias Belt.
The Free Bowies after Emancipation
I do not see a subsequent reference to Lethea Bowie, born about 1813, after her 1862 emancipation. She may be related to Lethee Bowie, age 45, born around 1817, who was manumitted in the District of Columbia in April 1862 by George Hatton, who had purchased her in 1856 from B. O. Sheckells. This Lethee is the mother of three year old John Bowie, born around 1859.
Three years after Emancipation, on 17 Aug 1865 “Henry Gustus,” the brother of Lethea Bowie and son of Hannah, entered into a contract with J.W.A. Hobbes, registered with the Freedmen’s Bureau in the District of Columbia, for a wage of ten dollars per month. He next appears in the 1870 census in Washington Ward Seven as “Henry Bowie,” married to Lucy, and residing with Elizah Dorsey, domestic servant, who may been a kinswoman. The 1871 census records Henry Bowie, laborer, at 1 st near K southwest. He may be the same Henry Bowie who in 1893 in DC applied for a pension of having served in the 10th United States Colored Calvary. Perhaps he is the same Henry Bowie working as a laborer in DC in the 1890s and 1900s for the Bureau of Printing and Engraving, and in 1902 residing at 108 Canal street, SW.
George Bowie, the eldest child of Lethea Bowie, is listed in the 1867 city directory as a miller, colored, at 6th n Market, Georgetown. He appears in the 1870 census in Georgetown, as a 40 year old, so born around 1830 working in a flour mill and living with his children:
John J Bowie, age 19, b. 1851
Annie E Bowie, age 15, b. 1855
Mary Bowie, age 12, b 1857
Elizabeth Bowie, age 10, b 1860
These children’s mother and the spouse of George Bowie was clearly Caroline Bowie, age 24 (born about 1838) who was emancipated in 1862, by Notley Enoch Moreland (1803-1863) In this emancipation petition, Moreland lists as the children of Caroline: Jack Broom, Annie Broom, Mary Bowie, and unnamed child, not yet christened, who must have become Elizabeth Bowie. Moreland states in his compensation petition he acquired Caroline through his “present wife” and that all the enslaved children were born after Caroline came into his possession. This is a little puzzling since Notley Moreland’s wife was Christina, nee Joy, whom he married February 1, 1826, evidently twelve years before Caroline Bowie was born.
Jack (later John) and Annie, it should be noted, are listed in 1862 as “of yellow complexion” so it is possible that their father was white (or was perhaps the free mulatto Jackson Broom, of Georgetown), and not actually George Bowie, who may have adopted them after Emancipation.
Notley Moorland, like Charles Richard Belt, listed Tenleytown as his post office, so the enslaved couple George and Caroline were likely in proximity to one another.
The 1879 city directory lists Caroline Bowie, dressmaker, as the widow of George R. Bowie, who must have died previous to that date, after 1870. The 1880 census shows Caroline as servant, residing in the home of the black barber, James Lyles, at 7 Rock Street (now 27th street) in Georgetown.Caroline also is listed in the 1893 city directory, at 1234 Rock NW (now 27th street, south of N Street.). (Note that a younger Caroline Bowie, also widowed, is also in the 1880 census, listed as a messenger in the Interior Department. living at 510 19th street.)
George and Caroline’s son John J Bowie marries Rebecca West on 27 December 1869. In 1879, John Bowie is listed as a laborer living at 115 L Street, Southeast. In the 1880 census, John and Rebecca reside in Goal Alley between 6th and 7th avenues, NW, with their children Lincoln, Gertrude, Frank, and Susan. Lincoln Bowie marries Lina Price 23 August 1888, and then have at least one child, Robert Bowie, 1900-1928. The 1891 city directory lists both John J Bowie, “fireman” and his son Lincoln Bowie, “fireman” residing at 2222 Virginia NW, in DC. Lincoln Bowie in 1905 is at 1212 4th NW. John Bowie appears in the 1910 census as a news dealer in Washington Precinct 6, living at 480 Washington Street NW, still married to Rebecca (laundress), with their son Lincoln Bowie, employed as an engineer at the US Capitol.
Lincoln’s younger brother Frank Bowie, marries 4 February 1902 in DC. His World War One registration card lists his full name as Francis John Frank Bowie, occupation fireman at the Raleigh Hotel, residing at 1713 Florida Avenue.
George’s sister and Lethea’s daughter Harriet Bowie, is a bit perplexing. The 1870 census lists two black women named Harriet Bowie of approximately the same age residing in Georgetown, who might be the same person (census enumerators sometimes counted the same individual twice.) First, a Harriet Bowie, born around 1850, is listed as a domestic servant in the household of the white man William Thomas (book binder) and his wife Mary Thomas in Georgetown. Second, a Harriet Bowie, also a domestic servant, born about 1845, is living in Georgetown, in the household of Richard Canter, a black laborer. (Recall, that the Harriet Bowie emancipated by Charles Richard Belt in 1862 was listed age 19 so born around 1843). This same woman appears in the 1879 city directory as Harriet Bowie, cook, residing at 171 High Street, (present day Wisconsin Avenue), Georgetown. The 1880 census records her, as born January 1848, residing on High Street in the home of her “sister” “Clara Canter,” widow of Richard Canter. The 1881 city directory shows her as a servant living at 3506 Prospect in North Georgetown (now, adjacent to Georgetown University). In the 1890 the city directory lists both Harriet Bowie, cook, and Clara Canter at 1623 32nd street, adjacent to Tudor Place in Georgetown. The 1900 census records Clara Canter living at 1670 “Valley” street (the old name for 32nd street) but with no sign of Harriet.
A Harriet Bowie marries a Benjamin Machall on 29 September in 1872 in DC but I can no further reference of a Benjamin Machall or a Harriet Machall.
This might mean that Clara Canter was the twin sister of “our” Harriet Bowie, and hence another daughter of Leathe Bowie, but i am not sure of this.
Leatha’s daughter Eliza appears in Freedmen’s Bureau records of May 6, 1866, living on G Street between 6th and 7th, in a household of two persons, as “sick,” supplied with groceries by the visiting Freedmen’s Bureau agent. The next year she is listed in the 1867 city directory lists as Elizabeth Bowie, cook, colored, 3rd street, west corner G north. She is evidently the same woman as the Eliza Bowie who died of an inflammation of the brain in 1869, age 20, residing in Georgetown.
Leathea’s evident daughter Ann Bowie, born about 1840, (who was sold by Charles Richard Belt in 1859 to Morris Adler, who manumitted her in 1862) is difficult to trace. She is clearly not the Anna Bowie, born 1841, a free woman of color and washerwoman listed in the 1860 census, in Washington Ward 1, married to a James Bowie. She is too old to be the Anna Bowie, born about 1861, who marries Phillip Whiting in 1883. She might possibly be the Ann Bowie, born 1841 in Maryland, married to William Bowie, with son Frank Bowie, residing in Washington Ward 2 in the 1870 census. She appears as widowed, a servant, in the 1880 census, residing with her daughter Ellen Bowie, born 1860, at 1130 3rd St NW. She appears as widowed, a cook, in the 1900 census, at 1219 16th street (at M street), in the household of the white man John Evans, whose nephew is a bank clerk.
I do not see references to brothers “Andrew Bowie” or “Hamilton Bowie,” the sons of Lethea, after their 1862 emancipation.
However, residing in 1870 with George Bowie and his children in Georgetown is an Andrew Reed, common laborer, born 1845, the same year. So perhaps Andrew Bowie changed his name to Andrew Reed, for some reason. This Andrew Reed, widowed, appears in the 1920 census, living with his son John W Reed.
Also, it is possible that Hamilton Bowie appears in the 1870 census as Hamilton Lyles, servant, born 1852 in Maryland, residing in the household of Robert and Maria Johnson in Georgetown, DC. This Hamilton Lyles marries Emily Bouldin on 15 August 1873. In the 1880, 1900 1910, 1920 and 1930 censuses, the family is residing in Orange, New Jersey; with daughter Elizabeth,
Other Persons of Interest
Sprigg Bowie, born 1851 in Maryland, may have been related to the Bowie family enslaved by Charles Richard Belt, whose father Joseph Sprigg Belt, was the son of Anne Sprigg and Joseph Belt Jr. It may also be relevant that Joseph Belt’s daughters Mary and Rachel both married into the Sprigg family. Sprigg Bowie appears in the 1879 city directory residing in Willow Ave, SW, and in the 1880 census on C Street, SW, residing with his brother in law Moses Holt and his sisters Amelia Holt and Rachel Butler. The 1891 city directory lists him at 315 C Street SW The 1900 census shows him married to Elizabeth Bowie, with a son Sprague or Sprigg Bowie (Jr.). Sprigg Bowie Sr marries 14 May 1903 to Henrietta Diggs (1858-1933.) He was employed as a railroad porter and died August 2, 1917. He was funeralized at Metropolitan Zion Wesley Church on D Street SW.
Antebellum Bowie Slaveowners and Free Persons
Where does the Bowie name came from? The fact that both Lethe, born about 1813, and Henry Augustus, born around 1828, used the Bowie surname, would suggest it may have been the surname of their father (either enslaved or free, black or white), or perhaps it was a name used by their enslaved mother Hannah.
There were several free persons of color with the Bowie surname in the District of Columbia and Maryland during the antebellum period, including:
–The 1840 and 1850 census lists in DC the free couple Arnold and Mary A Bowie, and their children, James, A, Lewis, Julian, Emily, Randall, Columbus, and G Bowie.
The evident son of Arnold and Mary Bowie, James Bowie, born 1837 appears as a free man of color in the 1860 census, married to Anna Bowie, born 1841, washerwoman, in Washington Ward 1. They also appear in the 1870 census, with James Bowie listed as a waiter in a hotel, Ann as a dressmaker, and their 15 year old daughter Teresa Bowie in school. James seeks likely to be the son of Arnold and Mary Bowie, listed in the 1850 census.
James’ brother Randall Bowie, (b. 1847, d, 27 April 1933) served as a teamster in the US Navy during the Civil War. He marries Susan around 1880, and is buried in Arlington Cemtery.
I am not sure if this Bowie family has any relationship to Hannah (Bowie), the mother of Lethea and Henry Bowie, manumitted by Charles Richard Belt in 1862.
–The 1850 census in DC lists a free black man Charles Bowie, living in the household of Elisha Riggs, banker (the founder of Riggs National Bank).
The 1862 Compensated Emancipation petitions for the District of Columbia list about 14 newly freed persons name Bowie, in addition to Lethe Bowie and her six children, emancipated by Charles Richard Belt. These are:
- Ann Bowie, age 22, owned by Morris Adler, who (as noted above) purchased Ann for $800 from Charles Richard Belt on 15 September 1859.
- Clarissa Bowie, aged 20, owned by William H Dougal
- Louisa Bowie, age 8, owned by Mary M. Dodds
- Sandy or Frank Bowie, age 14, owned by Albert B. Berry of Maryland (who states he owned Sandy’s mother and that Sandy was hired out in the District of Columbia)
- Lethee Bowie, age 45 and her son John, age 2, owned by George W. Hatton, who purchased Lethee from B. O. Sheckells, in 1856.
- Caroline Bowie, age 34, and her children Jack Broom, age 8, Annie Broom, agr 7, Mary Bowie, age 3, owned by Notley Moreland, who acquired Caroline from his wife, Christina Jay, nee Givens. (As noted above, Caroline is clearly the wife of George Bowie, eldest son of the Leathe Bowie emancipated by Charles Richard Belt.). Moreland also emancipates Nace Johnson, purchased from the estate of Richard Bowie.
- Nicholas Bowie, age 15, owned by Martha Manning
- Jack Bowie, age 27, owned by J.C. and H.A. Willard
- Henny Bowie, age 50, and her sons Rezin Bowie, age 19, and Hank Bowie, age 15, and her daughter Mary Louisa Bowie, age 14, emancipated by Fennick Young trustee for Mrs. L Anna Besuch? wife of Francis A Besuch?
It may be significant that the Belt family intermarried at least twice with the prominent Bowie family of Maryland. Perhaps the enslaved Bowie name was somehow connected to one these white Bowie lines?
There may be historical connections to the estate of (U.S. Congressman) Walter Ferguson Bowie, 1748-1810. who in 1790 in Prince George’s County, Maryland, owned 47 slaves and in 1800 owned 63 slaves. He was an immediate neighbor of at least eight Belt family households, including Osborne Belt, Thomas Belt, Mary Belt, Jonathan Belt (of Thomas), Benjamin Belt, James Belt. Benjamin Belt (of James), Middleton Belt. His widow was .Mary Townley Brooks Bowie (1747-1812)
One of the leading Bowie slaveowners was Mary Bowie, of Queen Anne’s District, Prince George’s County, who in 1820 owned 75 slaves.
The 1850 slave schedule for Maryland lists 34 slaveowners with the surname Bowie, including ten in the Marlborough District of Prince George’s county, where the Belts had property.
The 1850 slave schedule for the District of Columbia lists one slaveowner, R Bowie, with the surname Bowie, owning seven slaves. He is a physician in Georgetown.
The 1860 slave schedule for the District of Columbia lists one slaveowner with the surname Bowie, Cora Bowie, owning one enslaved woman aged 35.
Two years later, in 1862, compensated emancipation petitions were filed by three Bowie slaveowners in the District:
- Mrs. Melvina Bowie (nee Berry) for seven individuals: Wm Ross, James Shriner, Lemuel Terry, Celia Ross, Rachel Terry, Manny Ross Susan Terry. She acquired these slaves through the estate of her late husband, Allen Perrie Bowie who died in 1855, in Prince George’s County.
2. Thomas C Bowie emancipated Sophia Coolidge, obtained through the will of his Grandmother Mary Weems of Prince Georges County.
3. Robert (Rob) Bowie, of Prince George’s County, emancipated Sidney Coolidge, age 50, whom he had acquired through the will of his mother, Mary M Bowie. Sidney is the husband of Sophy Coolidge: the couple had lived for several years in the District, and Sidney had spent time in both DC and Prince George’s County.
I hope continued research will be able to identify enslaved people who resided and labored in the Chevy Chase area, and to trace their descendants.
Acknowledgements: Carl Lendowski (Historic Chevy Chase DC) alerted me to the history of the Belt’s slavery-based plantation during a recent walking tour of my old neighborhood. Many thanks to Carlton Fletcher for letting me know that Colonel C.R. Belt is marked on the 1861 Botschke map.